South Hams, Beach by Beach part 2

Surfing at Bantham Beach

Following from the previous post "South Hams Beach by Beach", here are our personal recommendations along the south-facing part of our coast.

Further information at the South Devon Beach Guide. Don’t forget that most beaches are at their best at low tide, so remember to check the tides for maximum fun. Also, you can take in a number of beaches by walking the South West Coast Path; indeed some are only accessible along the path.

Start Point to Salcombe

Walking south from the National Trust carpark at Start Point you come to Great Mattiscombe, one of the most interesting beaches, with unusual rock formations – great for sheltered picnics and hide-and-seek. Like all the beaches in this post, this is south facing so gets the best of the sunshine through midday. My recommendation is to make a circular walk, returning to the carpark via the coast path to Start Point lighthouse, keeping an eye open for seals on the rocks off-shore. Lannacombe is small, remote (and therefore quiet) with an unusual foreshore covered in black and white cobbles of slate and quartz. There is parking at the beach, but it’s a long narrow road to reverse if the carpark is full. My tip is to park in East Prawle, maybe visiting the lovely old Pigs Nose Inn before (and/or after), and walk east along the Coast Path. Alternatively, you can walk west along the Coast Path to Elender Cove, not a large beach and a bit of a scramble to reach, but quiet and sheltered. A little further is Moor Sand, also a scramble. The views from the coast path along here are fantastic anyway, but remember to visit the beaches at low tide. There are several beaches to the east of Salcombe which are best reached from there. It is possible to find parking opposite Salcombe in East Portlemouth, but it’s often easier to park in Salcombe and take the passenger ferry across. Immediately by the ferry is Mill Bay, a large sunny, sandy beach with a great view of the boats sailing in and out of the harbour. Given its location it is busier than the beaches above. If you are feeling adventurous, take the coast path about 2 miles east to Seacombe Sand. There are no facilities at the beach, but you can climb up to the cafe at Gara Rock for refreshments and a fantastic view of the coast and the sea. There are no real beaches in the Kingsbridge estuary above Salcombe, though there are plenty of pleasant stony banks for walking an picnics.

Salcombe to Bantham

The Salcombe side of the estuary features two beaches at North Sands and South Sands. These are quite a walk from the town, so it’s probably best to drive there or take the ferry from the town. These two beaches are large (at low tide) with cafes, toilets etc, but therefore tend to be busy.

Although the coast path continues west along the cliffs from Salcombe to Bolt Tail, the only beach for the next 5 miles is Soar Mill Cove, which is small and understandably quiet. However, the village of Hope Cove and its two beaches Inner Hope and Outer Hope, are large, sheltered and popular. They are a bit of a drive to reach, but are well served with pubs and food, and are a great place for walks up onto the cliffs. Hope Cove Weekend (usually the last weekend in August) is great fun, especially the sand castle competition.

Next along the coast are South Milton Sands and Thurlestone Sand, both of which are a good size, accessible, sandy and often busy. South Milton is particularly popular for swimming, and also for the Beach House restaurant, the best beach-side restaurant in the area, and still open lunchtimes in winter. Walking north along the Coast Path you can reach Yarmouth Beach.

At low tide, Bantham is the largest sandy beach by far, with ample parking, coffee etc – it’s big enough to have its own website! This is South Hams’ best beach for surfing and kite boarding, being very large and shallow and facing the prevailing wind/waves. The beach also has proper lifeguards as the tide can come in quickly. This was the only British beach included in The Lonely Planet’s guide to the best 10 beaches in Europe.

Across the estuary from Bantham lies Burgh Island with its iconic Hotel …. to be continued….

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